Sermon – Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
It was noisy in the entryway to the temple that morning. There was quite a crowd. People coming and going, talking loudly. Throwing their money in the collection boxes as they passed. The sound of the brass coins made a lot of noise. It was hardly the kind of place you’d go to find a place to relax, to rest and take a break.
But it was the kind of place that you could blend in with the crowd. The kind of place that one could remain unnoticed – if you wanted to – especially if you were poor. And if you were a poor widow, well, maybe you didn’t want to be noticed, because you knew everyone would look down on you. They’d judge you because you were alone with no one to care for you, no job, no way to earn your way into a respectable place in society. You weren’t anyone special. One poor widow that day threw in two coins. The only two coins she had. Hardly anything compared to the coins everyone else was throwing in.
Yes, lots of people were throwing in coins that day at the temple, the place of worship. The place where you’d go to gather and hear the wise teachers tell you about God. They stressed how you had to follow all the right rules to get in right with God. The religious leaders would stand up in their beautiful robes and say long prayers. Everyone looked up to them. They were respected and valued, unlike the poor. But everyone had to give a certain amount of money, because….the leaders needed it, for the temple of course.
All this was going on that day when Jesus, tired from traveling through Jerusalem preaching and teaching needed a rest. He was tired from the constant questioning by the religious leaders, tired from having to address the endless ways they were trying to trap him. Jesus so wanted them to understand that he wasn’t there to disregard their laws, but to show them there was a better way to live. A way to live a peaceful, nonviolent existence rather than find something to always fight about, something more than who was right and who was wrong. Jesus was tired of the religious leaders pointing to those who were “in” with God like themselves, and on the outside. God cared about everyone equally, why did they have to build walls to separate each other. Why couldn’t they just love each other?
Jesus wanted to get away, even if it was for a little while, from being interrogated and so he sat down across from the treasury, next to the places that people were throwing in their money and he watched them. He watched the people as they talked to one another, as they passed each other by, and as they threw in their coins. And He listened as they talked about what had to be fixed in the building, what they had to buy for the temple, what expenses they had to keep up with. Pretty soon the faces all blended into one as Jesus drifted off into a half-asleep daze until………He heard it.
The sound jostled him from His sleepy state and the disciples saw that he was startled. They gathered around Him. What did He hear? What did He see? What was it that caused such a reaction? The disciples didn’t hear or see anything unusual. But Jesus did. Jesus not only heard it, He felt it. He felt the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. He felt the outpouring of faith and trust. And it wasn’t from the long prayers of the religious leaders who did it just to be seen and honored. It wasn’t from the sound of the money thrown in to support the temple. He felt the faith of a poor widow who threw in all she had because she believed that it was God who gave her whatever little she had and it was God who would take care of her.
It wasn’t the amount of money that mattered. It was the fact that so often we give God what is left over instead of offering all that we have. Now God is not asking us to go and give away all the money in our bank accounts, but what touches God – what touched Jesus that day – is our motivation. If we give to the church just to pay the bills we’re missing the point. The church is the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ and we need to be about caring for the poor, the widows, the orphaned, those in need in our midst. The church needs to be about mission not maintenance. We are here to serve not to be served. The money that the widow gave that day represented her faith, her belief that God would provide all her needs. She believed that would happen through the church and yet the leaders of the church at that time regularly took the money from the poor to help themselves rather than helping the poor.
Do we as the church today give our entire life to spreading the kingdom of God? Do we give all we have in helping our neighbor? Do we give all we have in loving? Do we give all we have in forgiving or do we hold back? Do we give all we have in working together to build up the body of Christ or do we tear each other down? The church is not a building. We are the church, marked with the cross of Christ forever, claimed, gathered, and sent for the sake of the world. We are to put all we have into this mission not into something that will crumble. When we take care of others, God will make sure our needs are met. Our faith needs to be seen in what we do.
What Jesus saw and heard that day was the faith of someone who believed that God would work through the church. What is it that Jesus sees in the church today? My prayer is that He will see an active faith, a faith that gives all we have to spread the kingdom of God, a faith that sees giving not as a sacrifice, but as an offering. Everything we have comes from God. Let our entire lives be an offering of thanks and trust. Amen.